Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

MotoGP: Ben Spies to Leave Yamaha at End of Season

07/24/2012 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Ben Spies to Leave Yamaha at End of Season Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Saturday Jules Cisek 161 635x423

In a surprise announcement ahead of the US GP at Laguna Seca, Ben Spies has announced that he intends to leave Yamaha at the end of the 2012 MotoGP Championship season. Revealing the news in an email to Superbikeplanet, Spies chose his words carefully, though the Texan hints at a rift between himself and the Yamaha Racing MotoGP team as being part of the reason for his departure.

Certain to be bombarded with questions during Thursday’s pre-race media scrums, Spies is likely to shed more light on the actual situation, and his plans for the future, at the start of the Laguna Seca round. Until then, read his statement after the jump, and let the conjecture, double-reading, and wishful thinking begin.

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond?

07/23/2012 @ 5:31 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

Where Will Rossi End Up Racing in 2013 and Beyond? Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Thursday Jules Cisek 171 635x423

It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP’s Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi’s future has filled the media, with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, stories appearing in the international press. So, that Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical.

After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi’s decision will determine not just where he lands, but also to a massive degree it will determine who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.

Rossi’s choice is fairly straightforward: he can elect to stay at Ducati and hope that Filippo Preziosi can soon provide him with a competitive bike; he can take up the offer he is believed to have from Yamaha to join the factory team; or he can accept a ride with a satellite Honda team aboard a full-factory RC213V.

During his daily briefing with the press at each race weekend, Rossi has suggested that his primary focus is to stay with Ducati and make the Desmosedici competitive. Yet all of the news stories in the past 10 days have been suggesting that Rossi is close to signing a deal with Yamaha, with the sponsors backing the deal varying depending on the source.

So what is the truth? Just where will Valentino Rossi end up next season? Is it possible to make any sense of the rumors and conjecture that surround the future of the nine-times World Champion? Let us examine each possibility, and see what we can piece together.

Rumor: Rossi + Marlboro + Yamaha = Wishful Thinking

07/18/2012 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Rumor: Rossi + Marlboro + Yamaha = Wishful Thinking Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Thursday Jules Cisek 041 635x423

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the thick of the MotoGP Silly Season, where the best rumors come to light the light of day. Some of the rumors are the tip of the iceberg of truth, while others are grounded in something more resembling idle speculation. Meanwhile, some silly rumors are just bona fide lies disguised as link bait and used to sell paper. It is all part of what we lovingly refer to as silly season, and this latest rumor definitely lives up to that nomenclature.

One of the latest musings to emerge from the Spanish press is the rumor that Valentino Rossi will be leaving Ducati Corse for a satellite Yamaha squad, which features a factory-spec bike sponsored by tobacco giant Marlboro. With the OEMs sticking to the four prototype bikes per manufacturer in MotoGP, and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha surely accounting for two of the Yamaha’s on the 2013 grid, the rumor would presumably mean a single-bike in the official Yamaha Racing factory team, and one in Rossi’s splinter faction.

MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa & Marc Marquez Join the Repsol Honda Team for 2013 & 2014

07/12/2012 @ 11:10 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa & Marc Marquez Join the Repsol Honda Team for 2013 & 2014 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda HRC MotoGP 635x421

HRC has today confirmed the news that has been expected for several weeks now. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have both signed up to race in the Repsol Honda team for the next two seasons, 2013 and 2014. Both riders are long-time protégés of the Spanish petroleum giant Repsol, so the combination of Marquez and Pedrosa in the factory team was the logical choice.

Once the Rookie Rule had been removed – at the request of the Honda satellite teams, for whom Marquez would have caused problems with crew members and sponsors – Marquez’s move into the factory Honda team was inevitable. As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard has consistently won races every season he has been in MotoGP, and has been in the title race most seasons, though injuries have prevented him from mounting a serious challenge.

MotoGP: Repsol Honda Due to Announce Team on Thursday – The Silly Season Puzzle Pieces Are Coming Together

07/11/2012 @ 10:58 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Repsol Honda Due to Announce Team on Thursday   The Silly Season Puzzle Pieces Are Coming Together Ben Spies Pit Box MotoGP 635x467

At Mugello, a large number of pieces in MotoGP’s Silly Season are expected to fall into place. The long-expected announcement of the Repsol Honda team will be made on Thursday, according to Catalunya Radio, with Marc Marquez taking his place alongside Dani Pedrosa, who has inked a two-year extension with HRC. Pedrosa acknowledged at the Sachsenring that there were only details left to clear up, and after winning Germany, the Spaniard appears to have cleared the final hurdles to a new deal.

Mugello also looks like being the deadline for Cal Crutchlow. The 26-year-old Coventry man has offers of two-year deals from both the Ducati Corse team and his current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. What Crutchlow would really like is a seat at the factory Yamaha team, but with that seat probably unavailable – either being held open for a possible return to the fold of Valentino Rossi, or else retaining current rider Ben Spies – Crutchlow is instead likely to accept Ducati’s offer of a factory ride, believing that factory equipment is his only chance of winning races and a Championship. According to British motorcycling journal MCN, Crutchlow has been given until Mugello to make up his mind.

MotoGP: A Silly Season Update

06/19/2012 @ 4:25 pm, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: A Silly Season Update Ben grid1

Now that three races have passed, giving the paddock time to digest the news of Casey Stoner’s shock decision to retire and consider what effect it will have on the future line up of the MotoGP grid. The riders’ representatives have been very busy at the past few races, putting out feelers to factories and teams, weighing up opportunities and gauging the market value of their riders. With summer approaching, Silly Season for the 2013 Championship is very much open.

Two more decisions have accelerated developments, and drawn the lines of the 2013 season a little more clearly. Firstly, Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to stay with Yamaha for next season – “if Jorge wants to win championships,” said Lorenzo’s team boss Wilco Zeelenberg at Barcelona, “his best option is to stay at Yamaha.” The strength of the team and the state of the bike do seem to have been the key criteria for Lorenzo’s decision, the Spaniard opting for performance over financial gain.

The second development is the dropping of the Rookie Rule, preventing newcomers into the MotoGP class from going straight to the factory teams. The rule was popular with some team owners, but it also created major headaches for them: a big-name rookie like Marc Marquez does not come alone, but brings a small army of sponsors, advisers, mechanics, and assorted hangers on.

Room has to be made for these people and these sponsors, and long-term relationships have to be put aside to make way for them, which team managers then have to try to reestablish a year later once the rookie has gone. The abolition of the Rookie Rule clears the way for Marc Marquez to enter the Repsol Honda team, but it also opens up opportunities for other rookies at Yamaha or Ducati.

With these developments in mind, we can start to take a look at the current state of the market, the range of options open to riders in MotoGP, and what bikes may be on the grid for next season.

The Marquez Rule: MotoGP to Drop the Rookie Rule in 2013

06/17/2012 @ 4:35 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

The Marquez Rule: MotoGP to Drop the Rookie Rule in 2013 Marc Marquez Moto2 Silverstone 635x421

The rookie rule is to be dropped for the 2013 season. The Spanish daily El Pais is reporting that Dorna and IRTA have decided that the rule preventing MotoGP rookies from being signed to a factory team had to be scrapped due to the difficulties presented by the limited number of bikes available to ride. As a consequence, it was felt it was better to drop the rookie rule altogether, rather than create more problems for existing satellite teams by maintaining it.

MotoGP: Yamaha Signs Jorge Lorenzo for 2013 & 2014

06/12/2012 @ 8:06 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Yamaha Signs Jorge Lorenzo for 2013 & 2014 Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Scott Jones

Dropping a bit of a bombshell ahead of the British GP at Silverstone, Yamaha has announced that it has retained the services of one Mr. Jorge Lorenzo for the 2013 and 2014 MotoGP Championship seasons. Coming to Yamaha in 2008, Lorenzo won the Rookie of the Year title that year as he finished the Championship in fourth place. Second in 2009, and winning the Championship in 2010, Lorenzo was runner-up again last year, and currently leads the Championship by 20 points (his worst finishes this season thus far have been his two second step podiums) — all in all, not a bad legacy to continue with the tuning-fork brand.

A major piece in the 2012 Silly Season puzzle, Lorenzo’s steadfastness with Yamaha Racing means that a seat remains open at Repsol Honda garage (likely to be occupied by Marc Marquez, as the Rookie Rules seems set to be abolished this year). The move also means that there will only be one seat to be fought over in the factory Yamaha squad, with Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, and Andrea Dovizioso all having an equal claim to occupying it.

The Other Silly Season: Stoner’s Crew Up For Grabs

05/30/2012 @ 6:52 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

The Other Silly Season: Stoners Crew Up For Grabs Casey Stoner Repsol Honda Scott Jones

Once the shock of Casey Stoner’s retirement passed, the speculation began over who would take his place at Honda, and what his departure would mean for contract negotiations among the other riders in the paddock. The permutations are endless, much like a sliding puzzle: will Repsol be able to tempt Jorge Lorenzo away from Yamaha? If Lorenzo does go, will Valentino Rossi be welcome at Yamaha, or could he even go back to Honda, the factory team he left at the end of 2003? What of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, and where do Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden fit into this?

But amidst all of the focus on the riders’ market, a bigger catch appears to have slipped under the radar. For Stoner’s retirement means that it is not just his seat at Honda that will be available next year, his current crew, including crew chief Cristian Gabarrini is also up for grabs. Gabarrini and crew – mechanics Bruno Leoni, Roberto Cierici, Andrea Brunetti, Filippo Brunetto, and Lorenzo Gagni – came across to Honda along with Stoner when he left Ducati at the end of 2010, the group remaining intensely loyal to the Australian since winning their first world title together at Ducati in 2007.

Valentino Rossi Says Two More Years in MotoGP

05/17/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi Says Two More Years in MotoGP Valentino Rossi press conference MotoGP Scott Jones

Coming on the heels of the news that Casey Stoner will retire from MotoGP at the end of the 2012 season, Valentino Rossi was pitched a question on the same vein at Thursday’s press conference.

Asked how much longer he planned on racing in the premier class, Rossi replied that he no plans of following the reigning-World Champion into retirement, and would like to spend two more years in the Championship.